Cam Cameron at media day Sunday (HILARY SCHEINUK)
LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron heads into Year 3 with the Tigers. He spent time with reporters Sunday during the team’s annual media day, discussing the QB battle, the offensive playbook and more.
Here’s the story version of the interview with Cameron and quarterbacks Brandon Harris and Anthony Jennings.
Q: How did the quarterbacks perform in Saturday night’s scrimmage?
Cameron: Based on last night, I was most pleased with how comfortable they were, their body language. It wasn’t perfect by any stretch. It rivals the first scrimmage we had two years ago and that one was a pretty special one in most people’s minds.
Q: When did the light come on for Brandon Harris?
Cameron: A lot of lights went on in the spring. Just when you can sit back and reflect on any season, especially a season that had some ups and downs, you’re going to reflect, you’re going to take it personal to a degree, gonna let that help you grow.
Both of those guys shouldered everything that took place as part of every quarterback’s maturation. I think lights started to come on last spring, and, again, last night was a great indication of where we’re headed.
Q: How much better do you feel with the playbook now? Are you able to do more with these guys? Does it free you up?
Cameron: Practice tells you that. It’s easier now to go to a young guy and say, ‘Of these 15 things, give me the five you like the most, give me the next five and we can do without the other five.’ Of 15 things, you’re not going to need all 15.
When they’re first coming into any system, there’s things they just have to learn. There’s no way around it. You’ve got to give some things a chance. You may take some lumps in practice, learning a scheme and ultimately leads to something that can help us in a game. Now it’s just asking them and getting more feedback from them and then trying to help them get into the right play against the right coverage or the right front and getting the ball distributed throughout the offense.
That’s what I think you’ll see more than anything this year is you’re going to see our quarterbacks with the ability to spread the ball – backs, tight ends, receivers and not so much driven in one direction in any particular game.
Q: Could using and playing both quarterbacks be helpful for this team?
Cam Cameron and Brandon Harris. (Travis Spradling)
Cameron: I wasn’t in the (Les Miles) press conference you were just in. I think we’re stil in the process of having these guys getting better and bette.r I don’t think any decision along those lines … it’s not something we’ve talked about, not something we’re focused on.
I think we’ll keep heading down this path and Les will ultimately come up with a guy he thinks is best. Asterisk on that. You’re going to need more than one and need more than two. Justin McMillan stepped in last night and, bang, touchdown. Two plays later, bang, touchdown. He’s improving, he’s learning.
Q: Why give Brandon Harris the majority of the first-team reps?
Cameron: You can read way too much into that. Talking about six (more) snaps in a 50-some play scrimmage. First scrimmage. Some people flip a coin. Some people … one guy starts this scrimmage, somebody next scrimmage. I wouldn’t read too much into that.
We’re just trying to focus on both guys getting reps with both groups. It speaks to itself, but I wouldn’t read too much into six snaps.
Q: If Brandon was the guy, is part of it keeping it grounded and you may not want to announce something like this?
Cameron: Those all make sense. I don’t think you’re ever going to give away any strategic advantage that you feel like you may or may not have. We’ll let it play out. We’ll see how Les chooses to handle it.
From the coordinator/QB perspective, we’ve got to get guys playing as high a level as we can. They’re young. Young guys can improve rapidly and right now our guys are improving rapidly.
Q: Were you pleasantly surprised about Saturday’s scrimmage?
Cameron: Pleased. Not satisfied. These guys are maturing probably more normally than would matter to a lot of people.
Reality is opening game is coming and they all count. Our sense of urgency is beyond whether a guy is a sophomore, junior or McMillan a freshman. Our urgency here is completely different than a lot of places. For what we’re playing for, we’ve got to be hitting on all cylinders Week 1, carrying that into Week 2 no matter who the quarterback is.. Pleased, not satisfied and they aren’t satisfied. I was just in the quarterback room. You could see the look in their eye. They were excited about the things they did and excited about the things they can improve on.
We could have easily had one of the better first scrimmages since I’ve been here with another 6-8 plays made.
Q: Do you sense the tight ends having a breakout year?
Cameron: I think so. I think DeSean Smith was a big part of that. He had gotten banged up early in the season, and young players tend to … they don’t respond well when they get banged up and missed practice. He came back and stayed healthy and then got banged up the first play of the game.
Colin Jeter has made progress. Dillon brings a unique role for us as a true point anchor blocker. Those guys are like a lost art today. Feel like we’ve got that guy, got some guys that can do both. Jacory Washington got banged up in the spring. But he came to life. Caught a touchdown last night and ran right out of the stadium and nobody caught him. This is going to be a really good year for our tight ends. People will tell you, a good tight end, other than a running game, is any quarterback’s best friend.
Q: Do you wrestle with the fact that you don’t necessarily give it to the tight end when you can have a bigger play with receivers?
Cameron: Not really. You’re not going to push the ball to a guy who’s not ready to have the ball pushed to him. But at some point in time if they’re doubling both of the guys on the outside in some kind of Cover 2 and we can isolate our tight ends on Mike linebackers and safeties, we’ve got to be able to take advantage of that.
I think with the combination of our running game and an interior tight end, big targets – Jeter’s 6-6, Jacory is 6-5, DeSean is 6-4 – they’ve all got 6-8, 6-10 wing spans. Big catching radiuses. We’re working our even number passing tree and breaking cuts. That’s something a lot of people don’t do anymore. You’re going to see us do it a lot.
Q: Are the receivers gonna erase more mistakes last year with the quarterbacks?
Cameron: I don’t know that that was any major factor. It happened on occasion. Our receivers are, as a unit, vastly improved. We have a nice influx of young guys who are very competitive.
Tyron (Johnson) is very competitive person. These young receivers, Derrick Dillon, Jazz Ferguson, they’ve been a nice addition to that group that was already pretty solid.
Anthony Jennings and Cam Cameron (Bill Feig)
Q: It seems as if there’s more separation with Harris and Jennings than last year at this time. Do you sense that?
Cameron: I don’t think we collectively are ready to say that. I think that’s a compliment to all of the guys involved. Everybody … when guys are improving, everybody is elevating their game.
It’s one scrimmage. It’s one week of padded practices. I think this week will be a week that really can solidify some things if a guy chooses to do that. You’ve got to continue to build. You’ve got to stack quality performances. You’ve got to build on any positives, got to start erasing any negatives.
I can give you countless number of examples. I remember when Phillip Rivers was ahead of Drew (Brees) and Drew got ahead of Phillip and then Phillip never caught him until Drew moved on. Right when you think it’s going to play out a certain way, another guy just keeps getting better inch by inch and gets his opportunity and makes the most of it.
Q: How badly do you want this competition to end and make a decision?
Cameron: Les will tell you and we would say collectively we’re just not to that point yet. There’s times to make that decision and there’s the old saying, ‘ Don’t make a decision until you have to.’ We’ve got some time. Got a few weeks here. Let’s say we make a decision and one play you’re going with the next guy.
The focus is getting everybody as ready as we can get them. If lightning strikes twice then Justin McMillan’s got to be ready. That’s what we’re called to do and we’ve got to make sure we’ve got that option too.
Q: Did Harris have an advantage in the summer while getting all of the first-team reps in 7-on-7s?
Cameron: That’s a bit of a misconception. We’ll have 7 on 7s on three different fields. Everybody’s getting reps. It wasn’t like if they were both there this summer, their reps were going to get cut in half. Justin was going to get less. They were going to get the same amount.
He was the only guy there. Any quarterback is going to benefit from getting to go with the 1s more and more and obviously he probably did.
Q: So was it a disadvantage for Jennings?
Cameron: If a guy has no playing experience, it’s a huge advantage. If a guy has got 12, 13 games, 15 games of experience, he has that to draw on. –
Q: How different is Harris from the time of last year’s Auburn game to now?
Cameron: They should grow tremendously and he has. When you’re running a system, the pictures in your head get clearer and clearer and clearer. The terminology that you have to speak, gets clearer and clearer and clearer. It’s like learning a new language. The more you do it, the better you get at of it.
It’s like anything you do visually. The more you do it the clearer the pictures become. The more you know the SEC, the more you know SEC defenses. It’s just cumulative. That’s why you continue to grow as a sophomore, as a junior. Everything improves cumulatively.